Almost exactly midway between Africa and Asia nestled in the Indian Ocean lies an atoll approximately 14 miles long and 6 miles wide. This is Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos archipelago and the site of a strategically placed US Military base. Contrary to information conveyed by both UK and US Governments the island, an ex- British colonial dependency, WAS inhabited by about 2,000 4th generation families who were secretly and gradually expelled from their homeland during the 1960’s and 1970’s so that the US could establish the base.
The residents of Diego Garcia were often tricked into leaving the island to travel to nearby Mauritius for medical treatment, only to be told they were unable to return as their homeland had “been sold”. Only after the base was established were reporters allowed to visit and were given the impression that the US had taken over an uninhabited island. In fact,the Diego Garcians had been systematically betrayed and abandoned by the British Government who then compounded the shameful treatment of these people by then denying their very existence.
Once exiled, many Chagossians committed suicide or died in abject poverty having no employment or homes and insufficient compensation following their enforced eviction.
A group of exiles, assisted by a Mauritian lawyer took their appeal to be repatriated to the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] and a ruling is expected shortly. However, as if the original treatment of these people wasn’t bad enough, it has now been leaked via the US embassy cables that the current plans are for the Chagos Islands to be declared as the world’s largest marine protection zone. Such is the determination of the Foreign Office (FO) and the US administration to prevent the rehabitation of Diego Garcia. The UK Government has claimed however that the restrictions of the MPA will be modified pending the decision of the ECHR.
Quoting The Guardian today 4 December,” In May 2009, Colin Roberts, the FO director of overseas territories told the Americans “We do not regret the removal of the population since removal was necessary for [Diego Garcia] to fulfil its strategic purpose””. He goes on to say that the current thinking of the UK Government is that there would be “no human footprints” or “Man Fridays” on the British Indian Ocean Territory uninhabited islands. ” Man Fridays?”
When he was Foreign Secretary David Miliband issued the following apology.
“(It’s) appropriate on this day that I should repeat the government’s regret at the way the resettlement of the Chagossians was carried out in the 1960s and 1970s and at the hardship that followed for some of them.”We do not seek to justify those actions and do not seek to excuse the conduct of an earlier generation.”
So why not let them go home?
I have followed this story for many, many years and I get angry every time it is mentioned in the press. This story is why I will never trust a politician again and I will never vote in British election until politicians learn to tell the truth, and treat people with the respect they deserve. I guess my voting days are over.